Internet Governance - Under Construction: Doing Multidisciplinary and Multisited Research in 'Real Life' and Online

  • Franklin M
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Work-in-Progress related to Internet Governance My work to date spans telecommunications liberalization and ‘globalization’, world-wide web communities, ICT (non-)uses by homeless writers for Street Papers and, now, Internet governance. Issues of legitimacy, representation, sociocultural diversity, ownership and control, contentiousness over Internet pasts and futures, continue to motivate this recent work. I approach ‘Internet governance’ as research field, multifaceted object of analysis, contested domain, and problematic. Hence it requires closer investigation of, for example: the silences and elisions in arcane techno-legal negotiations and politicised decision-making that often pit public and private actors against their civil-society ‘partners’; likewise for UN-speak on ICT4D; the (hyper)textual production of ‘dynamic coalitions’ vis-à-vis actors’ perception, experiences, and recollections; policy priorities and applications. I am concentrating on the experiences and ‘utterances’ of social activists, with an eye to dissident views, silent players in terms of their ‘transnational ‘public’ or, conversely, ‘counter-publics’. How are their constituencies being represented, key concerns reconstituted as they engage Internet technologies tor immediate and long-term goals? This work has three dimensions; theoretical (concepts need updating, reworking), empirical (the who, what, and how need locating and documenting in previous formations, in-the-making, and afterwards), and educational (students growing up with Internet-media need to know about all this). Theory and research involves questions about the limits and possibilities of global governance as a transnational project given ongoing battles over ownership, control, and regulation. If global internet governance is predicated on a transnational (re)public of ‘produsers’ where is this public? How is it sustained? Who belongs and who does not? In educational terms, the integration of these issues – from a multidisciplinary perspective - is central to my teaching, particularly in the curriculum of the program I run at Goldsmiths. A recent pilot project – the ‘Trans-Atlantic Classroom’ - between Texas Tech (USA) and Goldsmiths - where students planned and organised a mini-conference on their own topic by way of virtual learning platforms, video and internet conferencing technologies confronted theory, practice, and real-life quite literally. Different pedagogies, knowledge, media experiences, technical know-how and want-to, institutional rules, and preconceptions colluded and collided in unexpected ways. A deeper concern is about the way in which the principles, financial mechanisms, and techno-legal governance criteria being put in place at the UN-level, anchored in a belief that this version of the Internet needs to be made available to the ‘next billion’, begs the question of whose greater good, needs, and futures are being facilitated. The question that concerns me here is evidence that the ‘hard’ issues of Internet governance (technical, economic and legal to ensure operational efficacy) are parting company from their ‘soft centres’; socio-politically sensitive issues, historicallygrounded awareness of the debate, goals to ensure cultural diversity; the divisions of labour between the ITU and UNESCO after WSIS are a case in point. Hence this new research currently pivots on the question of whether what is currently crystallising as Internet governance is not more akin to (global) Internet governmentality. For socially engaged actors the implications of this caveat emptor begs to be addressed, something for critical scholarship.




Franklin, M. (2009). Internet Governance - Under Construction: Doing Multidisciplinary and Multisited Research in “Real Life” and Online. In 2nd International Giganet Workshop. Brussels, Belgium.

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